Lineup Prep: Wild Card Weekend

Wed Jan 11 9:16am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Related photo caption below

Kittle can keep it going this week


More and more fantasy owners are playing in playoff leagues, and for good reason. They are a lot of fun contests and leagues out there these days. We run several on our site. Your fantasy leagues don’t have to come to an end because the regular season is over. I highly suggest getting involved in a league if you can. It is a great way to get your fantasy fix a little longer. Plus, there are a lot of interesting formats for leagues, giving you a different fantasy dynamic than during the regular season. So we’ll continue with this column throughout the playoffs, getting you ready for your games each week. 

With that said, here are my random thoughts for the week. . . . .

I’m really excited to watch the Jaguars this weekend. They are a team on the rise with a lot of top young talent. It will be interesting to see how they play on the big stage. Trevor Lawrence was a little shaky last week, so I’m wondering how he handles things this weekend. These playoff games can vault a players confidence in a hurry. I’m hoping Lawrence comes up big and balls out, keeping his progress going forward. 

It really seems like the knee injury Lamar Jacksons suffered is pretty serious and he is in real doubt to play this week. You also have to wonder if the contract situation is playing into this at all for Jackson. Maybe he doesn’t want to risk anything without a long-term deal signed. Who knows? Either way, the Ravens have next to no chance to win that game this weekend if Jackson can’t play. 

Here is to hoping the Bears use that first round pick this year to get the help that Justin Fields needs. Their offensive line needs upgrades and the passing game needs a lot of help at receiver. Hopefully, they can turn that top pick into a lot more picks to get Fields help. This is a big offseason for the Bears. I will be anxious to see how they handle it all.

I really do wonder how much of a negative impact Nathaniel Hackett had on Russell Wilson. He sure looked like a different quarterback after Hackett was fired late in the year. Maybe we shouldn’t give up on him just yet. The Broncos do have a lot of weapons in the passing game, so Wilson has a high ceiling if he can get his game back. Wilson surely will be a polarizing fantasy figure next season. I might be in on him for the right price, though. 

I’m having a hard time deciding on the representatives for the Super Bowl this year. The AFC is really tough with the Bills, Chiefs and Bengals as legit contenders to go all the way. And I even think the Chargers are talented enough to make a run. So I really think four teams could go the Super Bowl out of the AFC. The NFC isn’t quite as tough in my view, mainly because the Vikings and Cowboys are limping into the playoffs. That leaves the Eagles and 49ers as the obvious choices. And it is hard to bet against the 49ers right now with that team playing so well. The big concern for me is Brock Purdy. Can he make the big play if called upon? So I say this with little conviction, I will go with the Bills and Eagles as the winner of their conferences. We’ll see how that works out!

News and Notes: Reports are the Cardinals plan to trade receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. He is getting older and has battled injury the last few seasons, but could be a big help to a receiver needy team. . . . .The Ravens signed linebacker Roquan Smith to a five-year, 100 million dollar extensions on Tuesday. Smith is  now a mainstay in the Ravens defense for years to come.

HOT PLAYS

George Kittle, TE, 49ers. It took a little time but Kittle is red hot right now. He has touchdowns four straight games and multiple scores three of those games. And one of those games came against the Seahawks, who he plays this week. Kittle had four catches for 93 yards and two scores against the Seahawks in Week 15. Seattle has struggled against the tight end all year. The Seahawks allow the second most fantasy points to tight ends. Kittle is setup for a big game in this one. 

Travis Etienne, RB, Jaguars. Etienne struggled his last game, rushing seven time for just 17 yards. but that was against a good Titans rush defense. He had at least 13 fantasy points three straight before last week. And Etienne had 100-yard rushing games two his last three before Week 18. He can get it going again this week against the Chargers. The Chargers allow the seventh most fantasy points to running backs and rank 28th overall against the rush. 

Chris Godwin, WR, Bucs. Godwin topped 100 receptions for the first time in his career this season. And this was a year he was coming off a torn ACL and missed a couple games because of injury. He is clearly healthy and the top target in this passing game. He has at least five receptions 14 straight games. Look for him to keep it going in the Bucs playoff opener. The Cowboys have had issues stopping the pass, so look for Godwin to get a workout. Dallas allows the fifth most fantasy points to receivers. 

COLD PLAYS 

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. Prescott is coming off arguably his worst game of the season. He was just 14-of-37 for 128 yards and a touchdown against the Commander last week. It was an alarming performance as the Cowboys head into the playoffs. And he plays a Bucs team on the road that is ninth overall against the pass to open things. It might be another long day for Prescott in this matchup.  

Kenneth Walker, RB, Seahawks. Walker had a great rookie season, emerging as the lead back and producing big in that role. He had three straight 100-yard games to end his season. But the game before that streak was against the 49ers, a game he ran 12 times for just 47 yards. It might be more of the same this week against a very good San Francisco defense. The 49ers are second overall against the run and allow the fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. 

Tua Tagovailoa or whoever plays QB for the Dolphins. Tagovailoa really cooled off down the stretch before his latest concussion. He had few than 20 fantasy points four of his last five games. He also plays the Bills this week, a team he scored about 33 fantasy points against in two games this year. Buffalo allows the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks for the season. Tagovailoa or whoever starts for the Dolphins at quarterback this week is going to be a risk for fantasy owners. 

SLEEPERS

Daniel Jones, QB, Giants. Jones quietly put together a very good season. He took a big step forward this year in an offense that really lacks weapons in the passing game. Despite that, Jones was 12th overall in fantasy quarterback scoring. He had 25-plus fantasy points two straight games to end his season and topped 20 points four of his last five. He has a great matchup to produce in his playoff debut. The Vikings have struggled against the pass all season, allowing the fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Minnesota is just 31st overall against the pass, allowing 265.6-passing yards per game. 

James Cook, RB, Bills. Cook has enjoyed a bit of an up and down rookie season, but is playing his best football right now. He has double-digit fantasy points three of his last five games. Don’t discount him to have a big game or two in the playoffs. You could see the Bills getting up big in this one, running out the clock late in the game. This could mean more touches for Cook, who might be playing better than Devin Singletary right now. The Dolphins are solid against the run but have allowed 15-rushing touchdowns this season, which also bodes well for Cook. 

Richie James, WR, Giants. James has emerged as the top receiver for the Giants. He has at least seven receptions three of four games. He has topped 17 fantasy points three of those games. He also has at least 13 fantasy points five of seven. He is getting it done on a weekly basis. And he gets a bad Vikings secondary this week. Minnesota allows the second most fantasy points to receivers. James is setup to top double-digit fantasy points once again. 

High/Low Scoring Games

Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.

High Scoring Games: Chargers/Jaguars, Giants/Vikings.

Low Scoring Games: Cowboys/Bucs.

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

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